Over the weekend, as part of my solo play habit, I started to play the solo scenario “Conan: Beyond Thunder River“, published for GURPS in 1988 and republished in May 2012.
The first thing to say is that I am still playing it. I haven’t finished the first play through of it after several hours of play. With 560 separate entries in this “turn to entry number” style solo adventure, it has more legs than most such adventures.
The second thing to say is that I am enjoying this deeply. The text is pretty immersive – in the sense of immersing me into the world of Hyboria – and does so with a surprisingly light touch. It’s the small details and the carefully curated choice of words that does the job of immersion… and I find myself more interested in the world than I did reading through and playing in the 2d20 Conan game, even though I did enjoy that experience.
Next I was struck by some of the methodological tricks employed which have been educating me in different ways to use the GURPS rules to varying effects. Simple stuff but it is effective: one example is, when swimming the river under fire from archers, resolving the evasion of the arrows with one roll – to which you are offered a variable modifier depending on how deep below the water you dive; the next test, to see if you make it to the other side, uses the same modifier reversed. Not a new idea at all but it was something I hadn’t thought about doing for that kind of situation.
One great moment was resolving a duel against a champion with one opposed test. The twist was that you get to choose the class of weapon – as the challenged party – but the challenger then chooses the specifics. The text does a good job of mixing this up so that every time you play it there will be different weapons chosen. Clever, simple tricks to emulate the GM and then a simple one roll resolution instead of a full-blown tactical combat.
There are loads of little things in this adventure that really pleased me and also extended my impression of how to GM with GURPS. I think we sometimes forget the storied history of the hobby, of how things were done differently back 33 years ago (in this case), and how we can still take ideas from the past and apply them today.
Wish me luck as I take Conan on a deep raid behind Pict lines to slay the evil shaman.